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March 25 , 2009

Villette by Charlotte Brontë


Published in 1843, four years after Shirley, Villette was Charlotte Bronte’s last novel and arguably the most autobiographic. Essentially a re-write of her first, unpublished story, The Professor, it details the progress of the main protagonist, Lucy Snowe through an impressionable teenage period and then onto seeking employment in a fictional country that is based on Belgium. Securing a job in a boarding school a series of narrative developments and a plot twist kept hidden leads to a love interest in the shape of M. Paul Emanuel. Interestingly, whether this resolves into marriage at the end is left ambiguous.

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Given what it followed, hindsight is sufficient to know that Villette could never have reached the heights of other Bronte novels and though there are familiar motifs and new additions such as Lucy’s difficulties in learning French – certainly drawn from real-life parallels – the themes are by now well worn.

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